My culinary journey was anything but typical. Growing up in Hawaii, I fully embraced my father’s advice: “Love what you do and never work a day in your life“, wise words that I follow to this day. So, I embarked on creating a life around my first love, soccer, which led an innocent island boy to, of all places, Eastern Europe. I landed in strange, unfamiliar surroundings that could be ‘oh so cold’ (at least to me!), but with warm people who accepted me through our shared love of soccer. Unfortunately, I discovered the politics of sport, which made me doubt my path. I still loved soccer, but the confusion from pursuing a professional sports career left me at a crossroads, so I realised I would have to continue my search. I left the Romanian countryside to find what I love. Sweeping parking lots was not the first thing that came to mind, but it was part of the process. And then, one night while I was preparing a meal in the kitchen, the seed was planted by the mother of my girlfriend at that time, “You should go to culinary school!” The seed sprouted inspiration and a motivation that filled me with joy.
I remember it like yesterday – I pursued my cooking classes like a high school kid only happy with straight A’s. I guess we are all nerds when it comes to the things we love! So, with that drive and the discipline I learned from my time in pro sports, I dove into my culinary arts courses at Santa Barbara City College. Six months out of culinary schools, my dedication was rewarded with the position of sous chef at Wine Cask in Santa Barbara. A young buck now a boss, it was definitely a trial by fire. Push or die became a motto, pain and suffering a norm. But it really wasn’t, because I found what I loved. The intense heat and pressure created a diamond in the rough that I was determined to make a sparkling gem. The work paid off – when the time came, I became Chef de Cuisine there, and like my father said, I loved what I did so I never worked. The culinary world is full of adrenaline junkies and masochists, pushing themselves to prove a point, competitive to the extreme – they tend to burn out fast.
After over a decade in the business, I’ve only met a handful of cooks who are truly at home in the kitchen, and one ofthem is my mother. She tried to teach me, and I eventually learned, that to create truly interesting and appealing food requires love. Cooking with love is the key to success and happiness for me. From Gaggan to 22 Kitchen & Bar at Dusit Thani Bangkok, I continued to find success and happiness in the kitchen! To find others who share your passion is so important when pursuing what you love – it’s something unspoken, but when the connection is made, it’s magic. With enthusiasm and a little blind trust, I rode the waves, letting them guide me to my destination, from Hawaii to Romania to California and now to Bangkok, which is becoming more and more a perfect fit for me. It is my sanctuary and my workshop, where my creativity is encouraged with enthusiasm. If you told me all those years ago that I would end up as Chef de Cuisine at one of IHG’s hottest properties, Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road, I would have never believed you. But here I am, creating menus inspired by premium organic wines from around the world and astoundingly fresh ingredients. Here at CHAR, I can continue to purse my culinary vision of enhancing fundamental flavours using contemporary grilling techniques.
This way, every component in each dish shines. I’ve been able to hone my preparations and techniques at CHAR’s amazing grills, sharing these delicious innovations with my colleagues and diners. All of them love these fantastic flavours from my modern grill concept as much as I do! The team here at Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road shares my vision – they understand how important it is to source the best ingredients. Not just the most expensive or the most sought after, but ingredients that have the best flavours, which are usually organic and sustainably cultivated. Claudio Russo, our new F&B manager, understands this, and I was thrilled that he has joined us with his creativity and flair – so now, like the Three Musketeers, Claudio, Michiel de Kleer (our GM), and I will create the most exceptional culinary events for Bangkok!
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